Factory Reform and Education in Britain 1815-1853

Specifically on Factory Reform and Education in this period of British History


10 Hour Movements & Short Time Committees

John Doherty:

  • Leader of Manchester Spinners Union that became centre of 10 hour movement.
  • Did not want anyone working more than 10 hours in factories, children/adults alike, but wanted to start with better rights for children.
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  • Michael Sadler - Tory MP and factory owner, tried to introduce Bill 1831 to regulate children's working hours, but lost seat.
  • John Fieldon - believed if working class got better wages, would help economy.
  • Richard Oastler - 'poor man's friend', Tory who led 10 Hour Movement, against 'Yorkshire Slavery'.
  • Lord Ashley - Earl of Shaftesbury, Tory and then peer from 1851. 'Champion of Factory Reform' - responsible for Mines Act 1842.
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  • George Bull - Tory Parson
  • Joseph Rayner Stephens - non conformist who also led the Lancashire Short Time Movement 1834.
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Wordsworth and Robert Southey:

  • Looked at pre-industrial period as a 'golden-age'.
  • Believed industry robbed children of their childhood.
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Laissez Faire

Thomas Babington Macaulay:

  • Historian and MP, wanted reform on economic grounds.
  • Believed damaged children were not effective workers.
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1819: Factory Act

1819 Factory Act:

Was the work of Peel, influenced by Robert Owen, but only for cotten mills:

  • No children under 9 be employed (they wanted 10)
  • 9-16 not to work more than 12 hours (they wanted 11)
  • Could only work 5am-9pm with 1&1/2 breaks

No inspectors, magistrates to enforce, act was largely ignored!

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1831: Short time committees & Factory Act

  • Short Time Committees set up in West Riding, Lancashire and Sctoland. 1000s pamphlets issued, speakers advertised.
  • The Factory Act - work of a radical called Hobhouse and a Tory:
    • 17-18 year olds work maximum of 12 hours per day.


Still no inspectors and difficult to determine ages b/c no official information until 1836 (Births Marriages Deaths Act)

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  • Petition signed by 130,000 sent to Parliament.
  • Michael Sadler introduced 10 Hour Bill, asked to chair committee to collect evidence, but lost seat in 1832 general election
  • Lord Ashley took up the cause
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1833: Sadlers Report, Royal Commission & Anthorps

  • Michael Sadler's Report Published - one sided paternalist/humanitarian; report highlighted the worst conditions, but very one sided. Government set up Royal Commission, led by Edwin Chadwick and John Southwood - took 45 days.
  • Royal Commission - was very Utilitarian:
    • Human suffering led to ineffective workers
    • Good conditions meant efficiency
    • Children particulary vulnerable
    • Adults were not beneifitted, this re-assured industrialists
  • Althorp's Factory Act - applicable to all textile mills:
    • No children under 9 to work in factories
    • 9-13 work only 8 per day, 2 hours education
    • 14-18 12 per day, between 5:30 and 8:30
    • 4 Inspectors paid £1000 salary

10 Hour Movement persisted; relay system used to keep factories open; adults not helped, no method of discerning childs age; no money for schooling and 4 inspectors not enough (1836, one died) 

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1842: Royal Commission and Mines Act

  • Royal Commission on the Employment of Women and Children in Mines:
    • Published their findings, first sketches of mines revealed.
    • Dangerous conditions, children of 5/6 yrs in mines, immoral (Humanitarians)
    • Many in House of Lords against this, as many were owners of mines - e.g. Lord Londonderry.
  • The Mines Act - drafted by Lord Ashley:
    • Forbade employment of all women, and children under 10 in the mines
    • 1 Inspector for all mines

Not enough inspectors, no clauses on working hours, women annoyed they cannot work in mines.

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1843: Graham's Factory Bill

James Graham's (Home Secretary) Factory Bill:

Wanted to restrict 8-13 year olds to 6 hours per day, and give them 3 hours education in Church of England schools.

Non-conformists and the Catholic Church objected to the monopoly of CofE education. 


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1844: Oastler and The Factory Act

  • Oastler - mounted another 10 hour campaign in North, much striking.
  • The Factory Act (Graham's) - Conservatives put this through, led by Graham:
    • 8-13 half timers work 6 & 1/2 hours.
    • Dangerous machinery fenced off.
    • Women restricted to 12 hours.
    • Factories allowed to operate for 15 hours only.

No sign of 10 hours restrictions that outdoor pressures desired.

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1847: Trade Depression and Fieldon's Factory Act

  • Trade Depression in 1847:
    • Demonstrations and strikes in the North.
    • Peel no longer in power, many conservatives felt they could vote as they pleased, and could repeal the Corn Laws.
    • Many workers only doing 10 hours b/c employers couldn't afford to pay them for any longer.
  • Fieldon's Factory Act (10 Hour Act):
    • Women and young people allowed to work for 10 hours only.

Adult males still working over 12 hours.

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1850: Factory Act and Coal Mines Inspection Act

  • Factory Act:
    • Factories only open for 12 hours and must half 1 & 1/2 hour meal break
    • Saturdays factories close at 12pm

Effectively shortened the working mans day and gave them free-time.

  • Coal Mines Inspection Act:
    • Mines with enough inspectors to manage them
    • Royal School of Mines set up, so there were trained inspectors.
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Public Schools

8 major ones: Eton, Harrow, Westminster, Rugby, St. Pauls, Shrewsbury, Winchester and Merchant Taylor; lots of minor ones:

  • For the elite - those who could afford the fees
  • Currciculm based on classics, didn't include maths until 1800
  • Some progressive teachers e.g. Thomas Arnold of Rugby, introduced French and Maths
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Grammar Schools

Ancient foundations going back to 16th Century:

  • Curriculmn also classics
  • Fees charged, some free places for the poor
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Private Schools

Fee paying, but much cheaper than Public:

  • Newer, started by impatience with Public e.g. Liverpool Royal Institution School 1819 taught maths, modern languages and sciences.
  • 1 in 4 working class educated in this way - no hint of charity or social control, not regulated by authorities.
  • Parents regarded teachers as employees - fitted w. cl. lifestyle - children attended when it suited them
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Sunday Schools

Only on Sundays, meant that it fitted in well with children working:

  • Chapel's and Churches used as schoolrooms, teachers gave services for free.
  • Sunday School Union created 1780's, by 1801 2,290 branches increased to 23,135 in 1851 with 2 million enrolled.
  • Effectively 3/4 of working class children 5-15 attended.

However, no obligation for children to attend, and many parents objected to the religious aspect.

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Dame Schools and Ragged Schools

Dame Schools:

Run by elderley ladies, essentially glorified childminding!

Ragged Schools:

1844, Ragged School Union set up by Lord Ashley to provide basic education for children of city clusm, hoping to deter them from crime.

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Church Schools

  • The National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in Principals of the Established Church in England and Wales formed 1811 (Andrew Bell)/
  • The British and Foreign School Society replaced the Lancastrian Society formed in 1808 by non-conformists.
  • Bitter rivalry, but used the same teaching methods - monitorial system
  • 3rd Group arrived in 1849 - Catholic Poor School Committee
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  • Lord Kerry's report - ' Returns on Elementary Education' showed:
    • 1.2 million (1/3 of children in England and Wales 4-12) attended private or voluntary school.
    • 1.6 million attended Sunday Schools.
  • Factory Act:
    • Compulsory for all children to have 2 hours education per week.
    • Some factories had their own schools, other ignored/forced children to go to local schools after work.
    • No inspectors to enfore this
  • Grants:
    • £20,000 grant for building schools, not a large sum but in the right direction - recognised government responsibility.
    • Money channeled to National and Lancastrain schools.
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  • Run by James Kay Shuttleworth (Doctor who had worked in slums of Manchester), checked how grants spent.
  • Belief that poor would only improve with education.
  • He believed better standards only possible with well trained teachers; schools to be inspected - set up teacher training colleges, four by the end of 1839.
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1846 & 1850 - EDUCATION

1846 - Teacher Apprenticeships, £10 per year from age 13, and £20 from age 18:

  • Had to pass Inspectorates exam
  • Assisted the Master in teaching, hoped to provide link between Gentry and working class.


  • 29 teacher training colleges, all partly financed through 'The Queens Scholarship'.
  • Grants increased to £370,000. Expansion of 'Her Majesty's Inspectorate' to ensure grant spent wisely.
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Impacts of Changes to Education


  • Accepted importance of elementary education & under state control.
  • More children received basic education, laying foundation for future reform.
  • Education Department created 1856 by Shuttleworths successor - Ralph Lingen.
  • By 1880, education compulsory for all 5-10 years old.


  • Little achieved in comparison to other areas.
  • Few stayed in education past 11 years old.
  • Unitarians and non-conformists opposed state influence/control.
  • Many of the poor still did not go to school.
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